Covenant Love, Lesson 6.3

Covenant Love: Introducing the Biblical Worldview

Lesson Six: The New and Everlasting Covenant

Lesson Objectives

  1. To read the New Testament with understanding.
  2. To understand how the New Testament depicts Jesus as the fulfillment of the covenants of the Old Testament.
  3. To appreciate, especially, the importance of God’s everlasting covenant with David for understanding the mission of Jesus and the Church as it is presented in the New Testament.

III. The Kingdom is at Hand

A. Baptizing the Beloved Son

The start of Jesus' "public life" is His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

As you read this story, notice the words that are heard from the heavens: "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased" (see Mark 1:11). The words echo the promise that God make to David's son - that he will be God's son and that he will rule the nations (see Psalm 2:7-9).

Following His baptism, Jesus is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Here, we see emerge another theme in the Gospel's presentation of Jesus. Jesus as the new Moses, the representative of the new Israel, the new "beloved son" of God (seeExodus 4:22).

This identification of Jesus actually starts early in Matthew's Gospel. If you look closely you will notice a lot of parallels between the early life of Jesus and the early life of Moses.

Herod kills all the Hebrew male children at the time of Jesus' birth. Pharaoh, at the time Moses was born, also ordered all the Hebrew baby boys to be killed (see Exodus 1:15-16;Matthew 2:16-18).

Moses was rescued by a family member (see Exodus 2:1-10). So is Jesus, carried off by Joseph to - of all places - Egypt, where Moses, the first deliverer of God's people, was also raised (see Matthew 2:13-15; Exodus 2:5-10).

Like Moses, Jesus too is called back to his birthplace after a time of exile (see Matthew 2:20; Exodus 4:19).

Moses liberated the Israelites, leading them on an "exodus" from Egypt. Jesus' Baptism in the New Testament is the beginning of a a "new exodus." Like Israel, he is declared God's "beloved Son" and is made to pass through water (compare Matthew 3:17 and Exodus 4:22; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Genesis 22:1).

Israel, after crossing the Red Sea, was driven into the desert to be tested for forty years. Jesus leaves the baptismal waters of the Jordan and is driven into the desert to be tempted and tried by the devil for forty days and nights (compare Matthew 4:1-2 and Exodus 15:25;16:1; see also Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 1 Corinthians 10:1-5).

Is it just coincidence? Not a chance. Let's look carefully at the story of Jesus' tempting in the wilderness (see Luke 4; Matthew 4).

B. Tempting the New Moses

In the desert, Jesus faces three temptations. Just like Israel.

Like Israel, he is first confronted with hunger. He is tempted, as Israel was, to grumble against God (see Exodus 16:1-13).

Next, Satan dares Jesus to put God to the test, to demand that God "prove" His promise to care for Him. Israel underwent the same temptation when the people started fighting with Moses at Massah (see Exodus 17:1-6; Numbers 20:2-13; Psalm 95:79).

Last, Jesus is tempted to worship a false god, which Israel actually did in creating the idol of the golden calf (see Exodus 32).

Jesus answers each temptation with a quote from the Old Testament. But not just any quote. Each time he quotes Moses. And He doesn't quote Moses randomly.

Each of the quotes is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy - from the precise part of the book where Moses is explaining the lessons Israel was supposed to learn from its years in the desert (compare Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:7 and Deuteronomy 6:16; and Matthew 4:10 and Deuteronomy 6:12-15).

C. Blessings of the Kingdom

Jesus, then, is the son of David and the son of God, the Messiah long anticipated by the faithful of Israel.

He comes to His people as a liberator and savior - like the first liberator and savior of Israel, Moses.

Like Moses, Jesus fasts for 40 days and nights alone in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:2;Exodus 34:28).

Like Moses, He ends His fast by climbing a "mount" to give the people the law of God, delivering what we call the "Sermon on the Mount" (see Matthew 5-7; Deuteronomy 5:1-21;Exodus 24:12-18).

The Law given by Moses at Mount Sinai was a Law by which the people were to live in the "promised land." The new law that Jesus gives in His Sermon on the Mount is the law for the new promised land, "the kingdom of heaven" (see Matthew 5:3,10).

Jesus insists that His new law doesn't abolish the old Law of Moses or the teachings of the prophets. Instead, He says, He has come "to fulfill" the Law and the prophets (see Matthew 5:17).

Jesus makes the Law of Moses a law for all mankind, a law for governing the human heart, a law for a Kingdom of God that's bigger than any one nation, a Kingdom that will stretch to the ends of the earth.

The kingdom teaching of Jesus is a "family law" really - a law given by a Father for His children.

The dominant theme in Jesus' great sermon is the Kingdom. But the Kingdom He envisions is far more than a political institution. The Kingdom of God is the Family of God.

That's why in the middle of this sermon, He teaches the people to pray to "our Father" and to ask "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done." (see Matthew 6:9).

The "kingdom of heaven" or the "kingdom of God" was the center of all Jesus' preaching and miracle working. It was the center of what He sent His Apostles out to teach (see Luke 10:9,11).

Jesus gives us many hints that when He says "kingdom" He means the promised Kingdom of David. For instance, He tells the people in His sermon that they will be "salt of the earth" (see Matthew 5:13).

Jesus is here recalling the reminder of Abijah - that God's covenant with David was for all time: "Do you not know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingdom of Israel to David forever, to him and to his sons, by a covenant made in salt?" (2 Chronicles 13:5).

Matthew also says the new people of God are to be "the light of the world" and a "city set on a mountain" (see Matthew 5:14).

He is evoking here the prophecies of Isaiah about the restored kingdom, which was to be a "light to the nations" (see Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).

The spiritual capital of the city, Jerusalem (Zion), the city of David and of the Temple, set on the holy mountain, was to become the seat of wisdom for all nations (see Isaiah 2:2-3;11:9).

Jesus' preaching of the kingdom is accompanied by miraculous healings - again showing Him to be the expected Messiah.

He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak (compare Isaiah 35:4-5; Jeremiah 31:7-9;Mark 7:31-37). He gives eyesight to blind - who call out to Him: "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me" (see Mark 11:47,49).

D. The Good Shepherd

As David was a shepherd, and as the prophets foretold, Jesus the Messiah came as a good shepherd to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel (see John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20; Matthew 10:6; 15:24; see also Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24).

We see this most clearly in His feeding of the 5,000 (see Mark 6:34-44). The story begins with Jesus pitying the crowd "for they were like sheep without a shepherd" (see Mark 6:34).

Mark wants us to see Jesus as the good shepherd promised by Ezekiel and others.

But as we see past prophecies fulfilled in His miraculous feedings, the Gospel also wants us to look ahead - to the ongoing miracle of the Good Shepherd's care for His flock in the Eucharist.

Notice the precise actions of Jesus when He feeds the multitudes: He takes the bread; He blesses it; He breaks it; and He gives it.

Now flip ahead to the accounts of the Last Supper. What do we see Jesus doing? He He takes the bread: He blesses it; He breaks it; and He gives it (Compare Mark 6:41 and14:22; Matthew 14:19 and 26:26; Luke 9:16 and 22:19. See also 1 Corinthians 11:23,26).

The Good Shepherd not only seeks out His lost sheep, but He promises to feed and nourish them, to give them their daily bread.

E. The Keys to the Kingdom

As Solomon appointed 12 officers to rule his kingdom (see 1 Kings 4:7), Jesus appoints His 12 Apostles to positions of leadership in His kingdom (see Matthew 19:28).

He appoints, one, Simon, to a special post, changing his name to Peter. Peter is from the Greek Petros, which means "rock." Jesus tells him, "On this rock I will build my Church" (see Matthew 16:18).

This may be a reference to Solomon, who built the Temple, the house of God, on a large foundation stone (see Isaiah 28:16).

Earlier, Jesus had made another reference to Solomon and the rock - saying that people who live by His new law are like "a wise man who built his house on rock." Solomon was known for his wisdom (see 1 Kings 3:10-12) and built the Temple on a rock (see 1 Kings 5:17; 7:10).

My Church is the name that Jesus gives to the Kingdom He has come to announce.

And Jesus gives Peter supreme authority in His Kingdom, His Church. He gives Peter the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" and the powers to "bind and loose."

The only other place in Scripture where such "keys" are mentioned is in a passage about the Davidic kingdom found in a prophecy from Isaiah (see Isaiah 22:15-24).

There, Isaiah prophesies God's transfer of "the key of the House of David" from a corrupt "master of the palace" named Shebna to a righteous servant, Eliakin. Of Eliakin, the prophet says:

He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the House of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder - when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open.

This sounds a lot like what Jesus says to Peter:

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

In the Davidic Kingdom, the king appointed, in effect, a prime minister to handle the day-to-day affairs of the Kingdom. He was called the royal "vizier" or "major-domo," the "superintendent" or "master of the palace." He is considered, as Isaiah said, to be "a father to the inhabitants" of the Kingdom (see 1 Kings 4:1-6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Kings 15:5; 18:18,37;19:2; Isaiah 22:22).

Jesus appoints Peter to be "prime minister" of the restored Kingdom of David, the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus proclaimed, the Church He called His own.

The "keys" are a symbol of the King's power, authority, and control (see also Revelation 22:16; 3:7; 1:8).

Jesus' reference to "binding" and "loosing" alludes to the authority of rabbis in Jesus' time. The rabbis had the power to make "binding" and "loosing" decisions about the interpretation and enforcement of the Law - they could declare what is permitted and what is not permitted according to the Law.

As prime minister of the Kingdom, rock of the Church, Peter is, in effect, the chief rabbi, with ultimate teaching authority.

Continue to Section 4

Other Lessons

  • Lesson One: The Master Key that Unlocks the Bible
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To learn the "big-picture" overview of the Bible - the story that the Bible tells.
    2. To understand the concept of "covenant" and its importance for reading and interpreting the Bible.
    3. To learn in general detail the six major covenants in the Bible.

    Begin Lesson One

  • Lesson Two: From Sabbath to Flood
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read Genesis 1-12 with understanding.
    2. To learn the meaning of the first two covenants of salvation history - the Sabbath, and the covenant made with Noah.
    3. To begin to understand the "patterns" of biblical history.

    Begin Lesson Two

  • Lesson Three: Our Father, Abraham
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read Genesis 12-50 with understanding.
    2. To understand God’s covenant with Abraham and to see how that covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
    3. To appreciate key figures and elements in the Abraham story - Melchizedek, circumcision, the sacrifice of Isaac - as they are interpreted in the Church’s tradition.

    Begin Lesson Three

  • Lesson Four: The First-Born Son of God
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy with understanding.
    2. To understand God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai and to see how this covenant looks forward to and is fulfilled in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
    3. To appreciate the key figures and events - Moses, the Passover, and the vocation of Israel as “a kingdom of priests” - as they are interpreted in the Church’s tradition.

    Begin Lesson Four

  • Lesson Five: A Throne For All Generations
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To finish reading the Old Testament (from Joshua to Malachi) and to read with understanding.
    2. To understand the broad outlines of the history of Israel in light of God’s covenant with Abraham.
    3. To appreciate the crucial importance of God’s everlasting covenant with David.

    Begin Lesson Five